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Yes, Please! How to teach your child good manners

thankyouJimmy is a four-year-old boy who goes to birthday parties and wreaks havoc. He grabs handfuls of candy or chips off the table without asking and doesn’t respond when an adult asks him simple questions like, “How are you today, Jimmy?” He runs rampant around the room while the birthday girl is opening her presents, and he doesn’t say thank you when he’s offered a piece of birthday cake.

Most of us know at least one child like this, and often the parent might just look at you while Jimmy tips his cup of fruit punch on the living room floor and say, “Oh, he’ll grow out of it.” He might. But the problem is, in the meantime, they have a child that other people simply don’t like being around. Parents might stop inviting him to playdates and parties, and Jimmy won’t even understand why. He’s just acting how he always acts, and nobody is correcting his behaviour.

Manners are learned, not something that just comes naturally with time. Children have to be taught to be polite and respectful, and those values come directly from watching their own family members and being reminded to say please and thank you.

Here are some tips on how to instill good manners in your children:

  1. Make it a matter of pride. Say things like, “In our family, we always say please when we ask for something and thank you when someone does something for us.”
  2. Model good behavior. Children are sponges, absorbing everything they see and hear around them. Pay attention to your own manners and make sure you’re always polite when you’re speaking to your friends and family members, including your children. Instead of saying, “Bring your plate over and put it in the dishwasher,” add a “please” at the beginning. Soon it will be so familiar it will just be second nature to your child.
  3. Praise every occasion you see your child demonstrating great manners. For example, if my son asks his grandma for a glass of juice and remembers to say please, I say to him, “I noticed that you said please when you asked Grandma for your juice! Those were excellent manners.”
  4. Be clear about what you want. Many times we are too vague with our children. We might tell them we expect them to “be good” at our cousin’s wedding reception, but that’s not setting a clear expectation of what we want. Be as specific as possible: “I want you to be polite when people talk to you, don’t take food without asking first, and always say please and thank you.”
  5. Be consistent…as usual ☺ Sometimes if we’re busy we might let it slide when we hand over a cookie that was requested without a please. We’re all human. But try to remind your child every single time to use his manners. He needs to know that manners aren’t just something you use when you feel like it…they are a required and expected way of behaving. Explain to your child that people like to be around others who are respectful, kind and polite.

Manners are important, so don’t give up and don’t give in!

To learn more about how to raise a polite, thoughtful, and well-behaved family, make sure to check out Kids: The Manual.

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